Written by JANE ALLIN
Research Analyst, Int’l Fund for Horses
The scandalous ghost writing of scientific papers subsidized by Wyeth (now a division of Pfizer) has re-surfaced in the news once again.
In July of 2009, a U.S. District Court Judge granted the motion to make discovery materials that were part of an on-going lawsuit public. These papers supporting the use of Prempro® and other derivatives of the Premarin® family of drugs written by non-accredited writers were then “authored” by medical academics.
What is most disturbing is that these ghostwritten articles “emphasized the benefits and de-emphasized the risks” of using hormone replacements. Equally alarming is that this type of marketing strategy is routinely used by pharmaceutical manufacturers to establish credibility for new and existing drugs while distorting scientific fact.
Last year the number of misleading ghost written articles was estimated to be 26; recent indications are there are now in excess of 40 misleading scientific “review” papers.
Ethical pharmaceutical companies; the “ultimate oxymoron”.
“Documents unsealed as part of a lawsuit against drug giant Wyeth Pharmaceuticals reveal that the company used ghostwriters to prepare at least 40 medical journal articles promoting the use of its hormone-replacement drug Prempro.
Hormone replacement therapy drugs such as Premarin and Prempro were widely popular in the 1990s among women seeking to avoid the symptoms of menopause. The drugs became some of Wyeth’s best sellers, raking in more than $2 billion for the company until a 2002 study showed that they significantly increased women’s risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. Later research also implicated the drugs in an increase dementia risk among the elderly.
Use of hormone replacement therapy plummeted, with a corresponding drop in breast cancer rates. Since then, approximately 8,400 lawsuits have been filed against drugmakers Wyeth and Pfizer by more than 10,000 women affected by side effects. More than 8,000 of these lawsuits have been consolidated into a single case, before U.S. District Judge William Wilson in Arkansas.
Wilson ordered Wyeth’s ghostwriting documents unsealed in response to a request by the defendants, the journal PLoS Medicine and the New York Times. The documents reveal that between 1997 and 2005, Wyeth paid medical communications firms to ghostwrite at least 40 articles that promoted hormone replacement for treatment of not just menopause symptoms, but also other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
These articles, many of them reviews of prior studies, played up the benefits of the hormone drugs while downplaying their risks. The communications firms also secured doctors to put their names on the studies as authors.”
There is however some faint hope that these criminal practices will be curtailed in the future. Elsevier, a medical journal publisher, is the first to formally step up to the plate to resolve fact from fiction. Let’s hope the rest follow suit.
“Medical journal publisher Elsevier has announced an investigation into ghostwriting practices, and some journals have started requiring full disclosure of each author’s role in producing a paper, as well as any conflicts of interest. Many journals, however, do not require this disclosure, and the extent of ghostwriting practices remains unknown.
“It’s almost like steroids and baseball,” said Joseph S. Ross, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “You don’t know who was using and who wasn’t; you don’t know which articles are tainted and which aren’t.”
Related article (from July 2009): http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/28475/
When Ghost Writing Doesn’t Cut It Anymore: The New Tactic
Just when you think that the veracity about conventional HRT is finally making progress and more and more individuals move away from its use in favor of more natural and safer alternatives, there they are with another deceptive marketing strategy.
“There is an inexplicable movement underway to change the term, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). I can’t imagine why, unless HRT is so well ingrained in women’s minds as increasing the risk for cardiovascular events (heart attack, clots and stroke) and breast cancer that some may think that changing the nomenclature from HRT to MHT may open a window through which new, less damaging information might be delivered. Think again.”
When will this charade ever end?
Changing the term will not change the statistics. Simply put, conventional HRT manufactured from conjugated equine estrogens is hazardous to your health and a known carcinogen. HRT is so enveloped in an illusion of benefit as a preventative medicine, Big Pharma and its followers have embellished its attributes beyond its merit to the point of absurdity.
The drug of the century? Hardly. Future generations will reflect upon conventional HRT and consider it one of the biggest medical debacles of its time.